Friday, April 1, 2011

Victorian Face Screens

A cluster of Face Screens I arranged on the dining room table.

A bunch on both sides of my closet door.

   Ladies of the 19th century liked to be thought of as fragile ladies.They compared themselves to delicate flowers and emphasised  their delicacy and femininity.They aimed to look pale and interesting paleness could  be induced by drinking vinegar and avoiding the sun and fresh air. Sometimes ladies discreetly used a little rouge on the cheeks-but make up was  frowned  upon-in general, especially during the 1870's.When social etiquitte became more rigid ,a pale skin was a mark of gentility .It meant that a lady could afford not to work outdoors,getting suntanned, which was considered vulgar and coarse. Parasols were used to protect the complexion when in the sun. Rooms were shuttered with dark heavy velvet curtains to keep out the sun's rays. Fine blue lines would sometimes be painted on the skin to increase the appearance of delicate translucent skin- showing veins. Face Screens were used to keep the face from becoming red from the heat of the fireplaces.

These are all  pairs.

    Most cosmetic products available were still either chemically dubious or  found in the kitchen amid food coloring like berries and beetroot. Burnt match sticks were used to darken the eyelashes and geranium and poppy petals stained the lips. A product called " paper powder" came in books of colored paper and pressed against the cheeks or nose,the leaves of powder removed shine from the face. Ravaged by age,a high carbohydrate diet,very little  exercise,combined with living in a dirty polluted atmosphere and sickness like smallpox, all made for the decline of a ladies beauty.

Carved bone handle-(cattle-bovine-species)

Victorian Needlepoint Bead work. 

Paper Mache'

      It must have been hard in those days and I can see where  the term, "A True beauty", came from. If through all this a lady could still be consider,beautiful, she must have truly been so!! So often when you  see portraits of ladies of this period there skin is painted to look almost white. Now we see why.
   I have heard lots of stories about why the Victorians made and used Face Screens. Often when I tour a Historic Home and they have one, the tour guide will say it was to keep there makeup from melting from the heat of the fire. Once in awhile a lady would be forced to wear a heavy makeup. Some times after having smallpox the face would have heavy pits, and  wax mixed with  baking flour would be used to  hide these marks. I would say that the fire place fire would have to be so hot to melt this wax based makeup, that the face would also be burnt. So I can hardly believe this tale. Now,it does make sense that the lady did  not want her face to be red and the fire might do that, so a face screen would be held between her face and the fireplace. I like to use this example when I guide a tour at My  Old Historic House. think of a hot dog roast when you were a child. You had to stand close enough to the fire to cook the hot dog, and your face became very warm and flush and you would often hold your hand between your face and the fire. This is what a face screen would do.

Hand painted on a heavy paper like card board surface.

Hand painted on tin or some type of metal.

   Face Screens were very popular in Europe, where social class was very much alive and taken very seriously. In American, ladies who had traveled to Europe might be aware of this trend. Most Face Screens   were made by hand in small cottage industry  factories.Handles were made of  painted and gilded wood, metal,bone,ivory and sometimes  sterling silver and real gold. These handles were sold and the frames were made of needlepoint and attached. Some factories did produce face screens, especially in the Orient, where they were often made of Paper Mache'  and then hand decorated.

They really knew how to paint. I love the poly-chrome colors.

    I don't know why I have a thing for them. I found my first pair at a small antique tag sale in St.Louis. I thought they were fans to cool a lady. I have to admit, I was a little slow and backward about such things in my early days of collecting. After learning what they were, I became more and more aware of them and started to collect them. I don't see them a lot around these parts. I do find them on Ebay and other online auctions. I am afraid they are to expensive for me these days, but I guess I really have enough. I loaned them out a few years back when a mini series was made in St.Louis. It was a period production and the beginning was set in the middle 1800's. The series was called, "A Woman of Means."
     I hope you enjoy the   Face Screens as much as I have enjoyed  collecting them. Come by any time for a tour of My Old Historic House, I will leave the lights on and we will build a big fire in the fire place and all have a Face Screen Adventure. And don't forget Sissy Dog, she will meet you with a jump and a kiss. And don't forget the June Issue of Victorian Homes Magazine is coming out in the next week or so and it will have a 12 page feature of My Old Historic House.I hope you'll get a copy and visit us there.Should be on news stands by the end of April!


Curtains in My Tree said...

How interesting , you sure have fabulous old victorian things and so educational you are Thanks

Love them while shopping I will look for these

Divine Theatre said...

Richard, these are so beautiful!
I, myself, was feeling like a delicate flower as I lifted two large lion cement statues and moved them into the house! LOL!
I found a gift for you...I think I still have your address, beautiful soul!

Kiss the little angel, especially where she was cut on her back :(



lvroftiques said...

Richard like all your other collections these face screens are gorgeous! I just scored one for 49 cents! It's not in perfect condition but we rarely ever even see them in these parts so I'm pretty sure they had no idea what it was. After viewing all your pretties I'm going to be on the hunt for more! I just LOVE em!!...Oh I also remember reading that ladies would take a touch ot arsenic and mercury in their face creams....could be abnother reason they died so young huh? Vanna

Richard Cottrell said...

49 CENTS!!!!! Ms. Vanna, That is not fair!!!!!! You done good!!!!!!!!!!!!

xinex said...

You really do have so many lovely collections, Richard. I love how you displayed these...Christine

ladyestelle said...

My dearest Richard,
Thank you for stopping by my blog.
Every time I come to yours, I learn more and more. I am excited for you in being featured in the Victorian Homes Magazine. You have a most interesting and glorious home. That will make two of my friends that have had there homes featured in this great magazine.
I don't know if you know Joseph Matteo, owner of the Stagmaier Mansion.
He did a lovely restoration of his home.
I am so honored to know you and hope that one day I will be able to visit your lovely establishment. Much admiration,
Lady Estelle

Sissysmom said...

So interesting. I,too, thought they were just fanning fans now thanks to you I know better. When you have your Face Screen Adventure don't forget Sissy Dog, she will need one too to protect her beautiful face!

Rose ~Victorian Rose ~ said...

You are a treasure of information..
I had never heard of Face Screen' interesting, and sad at the same time, that woman would have to go to such belive to be beautiful.

When in fact, it's the character and soul of the person that is their beauty or handsomeness.
Thanks for dropping by once again.
QUITE a collection you have Richard.

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Hi Richard, I am so glad you left me a comment so I was able to follow back to your wonderful blog. This is an amazing and beautiful collection of face screens. I rarely see these for sale and the few I have seen were in poor condition. I have been browsing your archives and now I am a follower.
Take care,

~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ said...

Hello Richard~ ~ ~It's so nice to meet you. I loved your history of the fans. Your collection is lovely I didn't realise tht so many of these beauties survived. I will be visiting more often now that I have found you.
~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) said...

Hi Richard, thanks for the lesson. I had no idea what these were actually called. I've seen them for years. You have some of the greatest treasures. Isn't this weather fantastic?
hugs ~lynne~

Candy said...

Thanks for your visit today. It's been a while since I've been around for PINK Sat. but always like to see what's going round. And you have shared some lovely pieces.
Weekend Blessings ;-)

Shelia said...

Hi Richard and it's very nice to meet you! Oh, what lovely things you have. Those face screens are beautiful! Now I'm off to scroll through your blog.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Tallulah's Antique Closet said...

Hi Richard, What a beautiful collection of fans you have there. I luv the hand painted ones. Thanks for sharing your treasures....Julian

Bohemian said...

Richard these are magnificent! The workmanship on each of them is outstanding and your collection is impressive and a good variety of styles! You collect the most interesting and beautiful things and the History Lesson that accompanies each Post is so much fun, you are a wealth of knowledge and I thank you for sharing it all with us!

Dawn... The Bohemian

Lynn @The Vintage Nest said...

ha! I'd fit right in with the Victorian ladies with my pale skin but unlike them, I relish a bit of sun on my face. I do wonder if I have ever passed by these gorgeous pieces, thinking they were more though. Thanks so much for this delightful informative post. Now I am off to read more of your wonderful blog. Have a great week ~ Lynn

Brigitte said...

Richard these are marvelous collections you have and you amaze me every time you post something new.Your taste is so exquisite,I know I said it before and you probably will hear it again from me.I haven't seen many of these and when I did they were either in bad shape or to expensive for us.
Of course doing needlepoint and beading myself I truly appreciate the workmanship and the endless hours of completing these works of art.
THANK YOU once again for sharing your life long collections with us,

LydiaO said...

Hmmmm. These are some other lovelies that wouldn't take up a lot of space so you can keep collecting. I particularly like the one that looks like a little standard. They wouldn't be difficult to make if I ever decide to pick up costuming again.

Katie@LeBeauPaonVictorien said...

I love your collection of firescreens! They are gorgeous!!! I had heard of them before myself and in everything I read, it said the firescreens were supposed to "screen a lady's complexion from the heat of the fire", as you had also said. I, too, had heard some people say that they were to prevent their make up from melting, but I also find that dubious. I had always wanted to get a few of these myself, but they are hard to find here and expensive!!
Lucky you to have so many!

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